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Created by Newton Elementary School Museum in the Classroom project participants.
Greater Prairie Chicken
Prairie Chickens mate each spring. The mating ground is called a lek (from a Swedish word for mating). It is a cleared mound of ground in the Prairie Chickens area. Each male claims about 100 square feet of territory on the lek each morning before dawn. He starts struttin, dancing, and displaying his feathers. He fills the orange sacs on the sides of his neck with air and expels it, making a sound similar to that of air blowing over the mouth of a bottls. This behavior is called "booming." Males defend their territory and try to attract females to mate with them.
A Greater Prairie Chicken is sixteen to eighteen inches long and weighs two to three pounds. Its upper body is brown and tan striped, and it has black pinnate feathers (wing-like tufts of feathers) on the sides of its neck. The males have a black tail, and the females have a brown-banded tail. The legs and feet are feathered, enabling them to stay warm in winter.
Habitat and behavior:
A Prairie Chicken lives in grasslands. That all grass protects it from predators. The female makes a nest by arranging grass into a bowl shape and lining it with twigs, leaves, and feathers that she plucks from her breast. A Prairie Chicken does not migrate but lives through snowy winters by roosting in tall grass, even under deep snow, out of the wind.
A Prairie Chicken eats insects such as ants, grasshoppers, and leafhoppers. Animals that eat insects are called insectivores.
The Prairie Chicken is an endangered species in Illinois because of loss of habitat. There is a long-term study and restoration program going on in Jasper and Marion counties in Illinois. The purpose is to introduce new prairie chickens from other states to add new genes to Illinois stock. This will improve their survival rate and the hatching percentage of eggs.